Track #AWS Resource Configurations With AWS Config

One of the coolest aspects of the Cloud is its dynamic
nature. Resources can be created, attached, configured, used,
detached, and destroyed in a matter of minutes. Some of these
changes are triggered by a direct human action; others have their
origins in AWS CloudFormation templates or take place in response
to Auto Scaling triggers. The resources themselves, as well as their
connections, settings, and other attributes, change over time.

With all of this change happening, organizations of all sizes face
some new challenges when it comes to asset tracking, inventory
management, change management, and governance in the Cloud. They
need to know what was changed, when it happened, and how the change
might affect other resources. This need might arise due to an
unexpected configuration change, a suspected system failure, a
compliance audit, or a possible security incident. Regardless of
the cause, having access to the right data enables a deep,
data-driven forensic analysis.

Traditional configuration management tools were built in an era where
resources and the relationships between them changed
infrequently. These tools were costly, complex, and required some
care and feeding.

Introducing AWS Config
We aim to address these challenges with AWS Config. This new AWS service captures the
initial state of your AWS resources (EC2 instances and related items to start, with others planned)
and the relationships between them, and then tracks creations, deletions, and
property changes for analysis, visualization, and archiving.

You can enable AWS Config with two clicks! Once enabled, it
discovers resources and records their current configurations and any
changes to them. This configuration data can be viewed in timeline
fashion in the AWS Management Console. AWS Config also delivers
these CIs to you. Configuration changes are streamed to an
Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) topic of your choice and are also
snapshotted to an Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) S3 bucket (also
of your choice) every 6 hours. You can also process this data using
tools from our partners (see below) or on your own.

Config understands and tracks the relationships between your
AWS resources. It knows that an EBS volumes can be mounted to an EC2
instance, and that the instance can be associated with (among other
things) Security Groups, Elastic IP Addresses, VPCs, and Elastic
Network Interfaces

With Config, you get full visibility in to the state of your
AWS resources. You can watch them change over time, and you can view
the full history of configuration changes for a resource. You can
see the connections between resources and determine how a change to
one resource could potentially affect other resources. Config
gives you the information that you need to have in order to work
productively in an environment that is subject to constant

You can discover all of your AWS resources and determine which resources are
outside of policy for your organization. For example, you might want
to track down all resources that are not within a production
VPC. You might want to see which instances a particular Elastic IP
address has been associated with over the course of the last two
weeks. Or, you might need to know the state of a resource as of a
particular date.

Using Config
Config is enabled on a per-account, per-Region basis. It is accessible from the
AWS Management Console, the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI), and also provides a basic lookup API.

I start by enabling Config for my account (within a particular Region). I can
create a new SNS topic and S3 bucket, use a topic and bucket of my own, or I can
use a topic and a bucket that belongs to a different AWS account (with proper

I need to provide Config with access to my AWS resources. This is done using
an IAM role:

Data will begin to appear in the bucket and change notifications will be sent to the
SNS topic. Here’s what the bucket looks like:

Unless you are building your own tools for Config, you will probably not
spend any time looking at the bucket or the data (scroll down to
Inside the Config Data if you want to know more). Instead, you will use the
Console or a third-party tool. The Console lets you select a resource and then
view configuration changes on a timeline:

Partner Support
Members of the AWS Partner Network (APN) have been working with AWS Config in order to address a variety
of customer use cases.

Launch partners for Config include:

  1. 2nd Watch
  2. CloudCheckr
  3. CloudNexa
  4. Evident.IO
  5. Red Hat Cloud Forms
  6. RedSeal Networks
  7. Splunk

Here’s what they have to offer, in their own words and screen shots!

2nd Watch
enterprise tools will allow users to visually see changes as
they occur in their environment both in real-time and playback
mode. The integration with Config events also includes integration
with New Relic application alerts, Amazon CloudWatch alarms and AWS
CloudTrail events to simplify workload management. Customers have a
visual tool to simplify event management and incident resolution.

AWS Config offers users the ability to create and maintain an audit
history for their environment. The logs present an invaluable aid
for security and compliance. The dynamic nature of the cloud,
however, presents challenges for properly leveraging the
logs. CloudCheckr‘s compliance policy engine already converts AWS
CloudWatch metrics and CloudTrail logs into actionable
information. AWS Config represents a natural extension further into
this area.

Cloudnexa integrates with AWS Config to get a snapshot of resources in
the AWS account, and for audit of historical configuration
changes. This capability makes it unnecessary for Cloudnexa to design,
build and maintain software and infrastructure to get these features.

AWS Config allows
Red Hat CloudForms
customers to enforce policies
and ensure compliance for workloads running in Amazon Web
Services. This extends the same level of control that CloudForms
customers already enjoyed for virtualization and private cloud
workloads to the public cloud.

AWS Config enables customers to track and store the history of
Amazon VPC configurations and configuration changes in Amazon S3.
With AWS Config,
RedSeal customers get
even more information so they can strengthen the defenses on their
AWS-based networks.

provides software and cloud services that enable you to
collect, index and harness machine data generated by the
applications, servers, networks, sensors and other systems that
power your business. The Splunk App for AWS, integrated with AWS
Config, enables you to gain real-time and historical visibility into
the configuration of AWS resources and how these resources relate to
one another. You can also use the app to correlate data from AWS
Config and AWS CloudTrail in order to gain a comprehensive view into
security and compliance in your AWS account.

Inside the Config Data (Developers Only)
Let’s take an inside look at the data generated by Config.
Here is a small portion of the snapshot data associated with a
single EC2 instance. As you can see it includes complete identifying information,
lists the set of tags on the instance, and describes the relationships that the
instance has with a security group and an EBS volume:

  "configurationItemVersion" : "1.0",



    "name":"Is associated with SecurityGroup"

    "name":"Is attached to Volume"

Config will send a notification to the given SNS topic each time
it detects a change. The body of the notification contains detailed
information about the change:



    "tags":{ },
    "relationships":[ ],

      "attachments":[ ],
      "tags":[ ],

Config will also send an SNS notification each time it stores a new
snapshot of the current configuration.

Config APIs
Config provides two APIs that allow you to retrieve the resource configuration information:

  • GetResourceConfigHistory
    Look up configurations for a given resource within a given historical time range.
  • DeliverConfigSnapshot
    Trigger the creation of a full snapshot of your resources for delivery to S3.

Pricing and Availability
AWS Config is available in limited preview form and you can start using it today in the
US East (Northern Virginia) Region. We plan to make it available in all public AWS Regions

With Config, you are charged based on the number of resources
and configuration changes recorded for supported resources in your
AWS account (Configuration Items). There is no up-front commitment
and you can stop recording Configuration Items at any time.

You will be charged $3.00 per 1000 Configuration Items recorded per
month. Standard S3 rates apply for the storage of Configuration snapshots
and Configuration history files. Standard rates also apply to any
notifications delivered via SNS.

If you generate 10,000 Configuration Items per month, you can expect to
pay less than $0.13 per month in S3 storage charges. The AWS Free Tier provides
you will 1 million SNS notifications per month (you’ll get about
10,000 notifications if you have 10,000 Configuration Items).


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